By now, you’ve heard the news.
Since Tuesday, right-wing opposition protesters in Venezuela have led violent demonstrations against the socialist government, throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at police.
Despite one reported casualty, Venezuelan police have largely been on the defensive, using shields and water cannons to protect themselves from protesters.
On Saturday, however, when protesters intensified their attacks on police, opposition leaders claimed President Nicolas Maduro’s administration used “toxic weapons” to shut down anti-government demonstrations.
El Hatillo Mayor David Smolansky, a leading figure of the opposition Popular Will party, alleged on Twitter that “Nicolas Maduro is beginning to use chemical weapons as they are using in Syria.”
“I denounce that the Guard (police) used a ‘red chemical gas’ that is prohibited,” Smolansky added.
But Smolansky wasn’t the only opposition leader spreading this unsubstantiated allegation.
Venezuelan National Assembly member Armando Armas also claimed Maduro “attacked the population with red toxic gas,” calling him a “dictator” on Twitter. And Popular Will coordinator Marcela Maspero said “police are using a red gas to repress us,” adding that “it can be neutralized with soda and lemon.”
If you haven’t yet figured out why these allegations are fake news, here are three hints.
First, and perhaps most obviously, because hundreds of people would have instantly died if the alleged “red toxic gas” was a chemical weapon as used in Syria.
Second, because the Venezuelan government does not currently possess chemical weapons, nor has it ever possessed them, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Finally, because the right-wing opposition has presented no proof whatsoever of alleged chemical weapons used by Maduro’s administration.
Although Maduro has not commented on the faux allegations of police allegedly using a “red chemical gas,” he has remarked on how violent opposition forces will stop at nothing to provoke war.
“U.S. imperialism is based on lies in order to undertake its interventions against nations,” Maduro said on Friday while commenting on Syria, citing Libya and Iraq as other examples.